The political climate in Lagos is slowly heating up ahead of the primaries of the major political parties in the State – APC & PDP which should commence later this month.
Akinwunmi Ambode the incumbent Governor of the State has not declared his intention to run for a second term but there are clear indications that his supporters and a vast array of Lagosians want him to run in order to complete the adjudged sterling performance of his first term. Curiously, there are still no other aspirants that have shown clear interest in the coveted office. There are however rumours that the Political Godfather in Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may be reluctant to endorse his political godson for the second term just like he did in Babatunde Fashola’s second term bid in 2010. He is reported to being pressurized by a few of his long-term associates.
According to Fouad Oki, who purports to lead a faction of APC in Lagos, the head of this group is Rauf Aregbesola the Governor of the State of Osun; the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Mudashiru Obasa who is reported to be eyeing the Lagos Governorship seat in 2023 and Bayo Oshinowo the billionaire Chairman of the Lagos House of Assembly committee on lands who is currently eyeing the Lagos East Senatorial seat in 2019. A new entrant into the group is Prince Dipo Eludoyin, another billionaire Ife Prince and businessman with Real Estate interest all over Lagos and who is reported to have strong links to the Abuja group opposed to Asiwaju’s continuous overall control of Lagos politics. There seems to be other disgruntled fringe groups and players who are concerned with the Governor’s growing popularity, the whispers of greater political future and possible inheritance of Asiwaju’s political empire. There is of course Fouad Oki’s splinter group and other shadowy characters both within and outside the party. There are even some rabid loyalist who are reported to be pushing Asiwaju to draft his wife or son into the race over Ambode. All these forces appear to be converging at rapid speed to thwart the Governor’s quest for a second term.
A lot of Lagosians are however beginning to question whether unarguably one of the greatest Nigerian political tacticians and leadership head-hunters has lost his touch and intuition. They wonder how in this time of strife and uncertainty, the Jagaban of Borgu would even considering tinkering with a winning hand at the behest of Aregbesola, Eludoyin and their cohorts. Politics is a weird game and some have attributed Asiwaju’s vacillation on his perpetual quest to retain power, old age, fear or even envy of a political son who appears to be outperforming his predecessors. Some say it might be based on Asiwaju’s desire to run for the presidency in 2023 and Ambode’s possible threat to that desire.
Nobody can say for certain what goes on in a politician’s mind but it appears a battle royale is brewing and Jagaban’s core associates appear bent on pushing him over that proverbial precipe. Asiwaju has already allowed his estranged political sons turned rivals to set up beacheads in Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun with their support for Adeoti of the ADP. The ultimate aim it appears is to wrest his “prize possession” – Lagos – from his grasp with the attendant complete political and economic demystification of the Jagaban of Borgu. Those who advocate for Asiwaju’s retirement say 20 years at the helm of power is enough and it is time for him to give way to younger turks who can carry his legacy. They say if he does not retire voluntarily they will force him into compulsory retirement. They also boast that his core loyalists have already been infiltrated and have clandestinely begun preparations for their assault on Lagos.
On the other hand, there have been speculations that the politicians who feel Ambode’s popularity must be checked are wooing Femi Otedola the billionaire oil magnate and chairman of Forte Oil, who is reported to have stashed away hundreds of billions to finance his ambition in 2023.
According to those rooting for Otedola, who is a Christian from Epe (the same local government as the Ambode) but a complete political novice, he will be controllable by them and they can continue to perpetrate their political control in Lagos. There are also the serial candidates like Obafemi Hamzat, Supo Sasore and a new name recently thrown up, Jide Sanwoolu, who are said to be waiting in the wings to reap should Asiwaju be swayed in the run up to 2019 election or is 2023 their actual target.
There is also the twist of Senator Musliu Obanikoro who is reported to be eyeing the Lagos West senatorial seat to serve as a platform for his governorship push in 2023 which now appears to be shaping up as a battleground year. The political season in Lagos promises to be very interesting and many are waiting to see what moves Governor Ambode will make if it becomes apparent that he will be denied a return ticket by his Party. Considering that there are 68 political parties lined up ahead of 2019 that won’t mind adopting a popular governor that is adjudged to have performed creditably well, a platform to run should not be an issue should push comes to shove. By this time in 2010 Babatunde Fashola was already fraternizing with the Labour Party and perfecting plans to run on that party’s ticket until Asiwaju beat a last-minute retreat and endorsed him for another term under the then ACN. Apparently, that bruising experience took its toll on the Mentor-Mentee relationship and despite the photo-ops it has never been the same since then.
Is the same experience going to play out again? Does lightning strike twice? Perhaps not, Ambode has proven a bit more docile and compliant than Babatunde Fashola and may have placed his second term fate squarely on the benevolence of the Jagaban of Borgu, the support of the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osibajo and Oba Rilwan Akiolu the Oba of Lagos amongst others.